I know it’s just a question of time before I will have to part ways with my sweet Frankie. I can’t predict how long we have — I hope months, but it’s hard to say. I can safely predict that there will be a period afterwards when I won’t be able to think straight. So while I’m not besotted with grief, I’d like to share a few things.
1. I loathe the Rainbow Bridge myth.
I know that when Frankie dies, many of you will be tempted to use the phrase “He has gone to the bridge,” referring to the Rainbow Bridge story, to try to console me. I will never question that you mean well and I will be grateful for the sympathy. But just so you know, I will be stifling a scream of: “I hate the Rainbow Bridge. Frankie is NOT going there.”
Let me be clear: It’s not just because the story is cloyingly sentimental — and here I apologize to those who take comfort from it — that I despise it. No, it’s the image of all the dogs romping together in a group while waiting for their beloved person to arrive that I can’t take. Frankie has never romped with another dog in his life, at least not the life that he shared with me. I don’t like to picture him frightened, trying to avoid all the dogs that want to play with him, only without me to protect him. I’m serious. It makes me cry even to think about it.
While I have breath left in me, I’m going to keep Frankie from that fucking scary bridge.
[I have ranted about the Rainbow Bridge before, with regard to shelter pets, but it didn't hit home to me in the same way as it does now. That said, I read over the comments and discovered many people feel much the same way I do. Check it out.]
2. To me, gone is gone (though never forgotten).
I respect your belief system — in public anyway, unless you’re a fundamentalist who wants to impose your ideas on me. Please respect my lack of one. It’s not just the Rainbow Bridge that gets under my skin; I feel the same way about heaven, angels… all the trappings of the traditional afterlife. I find solace in the idea that any pain, discomfort, fear and unhappiness humans or pets experience is ended when they die. I felt this way when my parents passed, and I don’t anticipate any change of heart when it comes to Frankie. The idea of a separate sphere where the departed’s spirit and personality live on is anathema to me; I prefer my loved ones much closer, in my heart and mind.
3. I’m not keen on corporeal memorials.
Burials, urns with ashes, lockets with a pet in compressed carbon… all those things creep me out too. I’m sure I will be ugly sobbing over every last squeaky carrot I don’t have the heart to throw out, but once Frankie’s spirit is gone, his body will have no meaning for me. In any case, Frankie doesn’t have a special place that he loves except for my house and, though you probably wouldn’t notice, what with all the dust, I don’t plan to scatter his ashes there.
4. I would like to have Frankie help out with medical research.
I have the organ donor box checked off on my drivers license, but there’s no official organ bank — yet — for pets. I’m trying to figure out how Frankie can contribute.
Veterinary schools have what are called Willed Body Donation programs but when I inquired into the one at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University, I was told they only accept pets within a 45 mile radius. Which makes sense. But there is no vet school near me in Tucson.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to discuss this topic with my vet (the nice one). Even now, I’m only rational about this to a limited degree. Maybe I’ll muster the nerve to call a local veterinary specialty hospital one of these days. In the meantime, if anyone has any ideas about research programs, they’d be very welcome.
5. Please don’t tell me how I should heal.
Again, I know you mean well, but I’ve got to figure it out for myself. Right now, I’m pretty sure I will want (need) to travel but who knows? I might foster a bunch of older dogs, volunteer to walk dogs at the shelter — or I might need to stay away from all dogs for a while. Share your experiences, by all means. Just don’t present them as the “right” or “only” way to grieve.
By now you’re probably terrified at the idea of approaching or contacting me. But, honest, unless you’re going to tell me to get over it, “it was just a dog,” I really will want to hear from you; these are just guidelines. If you’re nearby, bring food — and, of course, booze. Hmmmm. I do like the idea of a wake, Cynthia David. But can we have it at your house, so I don’t have to clean up afterwards?
Those of you who have been through this — or who are anticipating it: What brings you comfort?